National Coming Out Day! To all the rugby LGBTQs

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 As it is national coming out day I wanted to write a little something about how proud I am of the rugby community, not just in Chicago but all over the USA for accepting and embracing that being gay or bi or straight doesn't make you odd. As someone who is straight I never felt singled out by my team members who were lesbians. I am sure none of them have ever felt singled out by me. Here in Chicago we have the Chicago Dragons. The Chicago Dragons are a D III team, who is part of the Midwest and Chicago Area Rugby Football Union. Their website proudly states

 The are the first team to accept openly gay men in the Midwest, the first team in the Midwest to formally join the International Gay Rugby Association and Board (IGRAB), and have been a guiding force in our local union and other unions throughout the Midwest to increase awareness and diversity in the sport.

ChicagoDragonsShieldLogo-212x300Since 2003 the Dragons’ have not only played the sport of rugby with a competitive edge, but they have also increased the diversity of the sport, creating a welcoming and encouraging learning environment for new players regardless of background and create a competitive team on local, national and international levels. Like most other team the Dragons gladly welcome newcomers, those who have experience, coaches and fans of all ages, races and sexual orientations.  Rugby can be seen as a masculine sport in a world where gay men are perceived to not have strong masculine quality. The Dragons help bash this view as they play 100% in every game, and have gay and straight player who aren't intimidated to be in the tight 8 with each other. My friend who is married who a girl rugger and is huge and burley played with the Dragons and was the happiest he's ever been playing because it was close to home, and they were a great bunch of guys who play their hearts out.

I am also proud to have been a player for Chicago's North Shore Women's Rugby team who has had a float for the past several years in Chicago's Pride Parade. I was honored to be invited to two of our players wedding this past spring in Las Vegas, during the Vegas 7s Tournament with players from all over the world partying in Vegas. I am glad that Chicago Women's Rugby team has SPIN as an official sponsor bar and that SPIN helps support the local rugby community. I love how these strong independent woman cross stereotyped of all kinds. Straight woman playing an "masculine" sport and giving their all, going to work with black-eyes and bruises and not worrying about the perceived notions people have about that. I love how they can get glammed up and rock any party, and how we can get dirty and be cool going out like that. We embrace our gay, bisexual, or straight teammates and can be how the world should be

So if you are someone who is struggling to come out because you do not want to be stereotyped, there are plenty of people in Chicago who will support you. Find your local rugby team and know what in the rugby family you are accepted no matter who or what you are. You definitely won't be the odd one for like the same sex, you'll probably be one of the more normal people in the rugby world. As for professional gay athletes in rugby, there is  Ben Cohen, who in May 2011, retired from professional rugby to focus on The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation he created to combat homophobia and bullying.

 

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    Stephanie Esposito

    Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. Got hooked on rugby in 2003, played college, CARFU and with Chicago North Shore Women's Club. Love the rugby community, traveling around and being able to find rugby friends where ever I roam.

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